Hi Floridabirders,

The weather today couldn't have been more perfect for the early part of
winter. Deep blue skies, temperatures in the upper 30s to start and low 60s
by late afternoon. And a light north wind. But the birds were not to be
found in abundance or number of species today. I decided to do some foot
birding and leave my kayak in dry dock.

I checked for the scoters across from the campground on Alligator Point
(Wakulla County) around 10. Several birders were already there, scopes
poised but no scoters this morning. The largest area of activity were 50-70
cormorants along with ring-billed gulls and a few pelicans actively feeding
within 100 feet of the shore 1/2-mile east of the campground. Gannets were a
good distance east of Bald Point, mainly juvs. with a few adults mixed in. A
few Bufflehead and 7 Black-bellied Plover were mingling around or on the
oyster bars off the north end of the point. Other birds seen in Bald Point
State Park were:
* Gray Catbird - 1
* Eastern Phoebe - 1
* Northern Mockingbird - 3
* Yellow-rumped Warbler - 2
* Great Blue Heron - 1
* Northern Cardinal - 1 male
* Killdeer - 2
* Thrush - no good looks for ID
* Ruby-crowned Kinglet - 2. They gave the best performance. The 2 birds were
aggressive toward each other at the beginning of the boardwalk over the
marsh. One bird continuously displayed its bright red crest, so much so that
the entire top of its head seemed to be red. The bird would keep the crest
raised for up to 10 to 15 seconds at a time. All this occurred in low shrubs
or on the ground 15 feet from where we were standing. Didn't need binocs for
this show.

Then off to Bottoms Road (Wakulla County). Again fairly quiet. Birds seen
* Great Blue Heron - 3
* Great Egret - 16
* Snowy Egret - 14
* Tri-colored Heron - 10
* Wood Stork - 1
* Laughing Gull - 1
* Ring-billed Gull - 42
* Brown Pelican - 2
* Turkey Vulture - 17
* Belted Kingfisher - 2 males
* Greater Yellowlegs - 1
* Bald Eagle - 2nd. year bird - 1

The bird that was lacking, the one I expected to see or at least hear on the
exposed flats with the low tide was the Clapper Rail. I did not find one
either yesterday down at Hickory Mound or today at Bald Point or Bottoms
Road. Another birding couple from the Merritt Island area also noted the
lack of rails though they did turn up a Clapper today on Bottoms. They also
commented that other birders were noting the lack of birds in the area over
the last couple of days. Weather related? Maybe.

Tomorrow should be a little more interesting. Although it will still be
cool, the wind is forecast to be out of the west from 20 to 30 knots in the
afternoon. I'll get my kayak birding in at St. Marks during the morning
before the winds kick up.

Harry Hooper
Tallahassee, Florida

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